06 Jan It’s Phở-king Cold Here in DC!
Winter has finally made its way to northern Virginia. We woke up this morning to find that about four inches had fallen silently over night, blanketing the ground in, what our dogs would most likely call, “pure joy.”
Days like this call for something warm, comforting, and steamy. And nothing quite fits the bill like phở, a popular street food in Vietnam.
Made with rice noodles and either chicken, beef, or pork, the broth is really the rock star of this dish. Salty and a little meaty, the fresh herbs like cilantro and Thai basil, beans sprouts, and lime juice you add from a side dish lighten up the broth and give you an aromatic punch to the taste buds. Don’t forget to add the hoisin sauce (that dark brown, sweet and salty condiment) and some Sriracha to spice up the broth.
Days like this call for something warm, comforting, and steamy. And nothing quite fits the bill like phở.
By far, our favorite shopping center in the DC area to get Vietnamese is Eden Center in Seven Corners (Falls Church, VA). We’ve been tried-and-true to Huong Viet but decided that we should make our way around the shopping center (okay, it’s like three doors down) to Rice Paper. DJ and I have heard really good things about it and read reviews praising their food.
Compared to Huong Viet, Rice Paper’s decor is considerably more modern, but that is not a hard task. Huong Viet’s decor is utilitarian in nature.
You need chairs? Here. We bought these when a 1960’s event space closed.
Broken chair leg? Here’s a napkin.
You get the point. But please don’t let that discourage you from visiting the restaurant; I’ve found, as a general rule, that there is an indirect relationship between pretty furnishings and tasty cuisine.
Back to Rice Paper.
It was pretty. And it was slammed. Slammed and loud. Everyone else was craving the steamy goodness, too.
We were seated along the edge of the restaurant with several large parties occupying the center, definitely adding to the noise level. It seemed that the staff was definitely not expecting such a crowd and they seemed quite frazzled. It took about 15 minutes for us to order and get waters delivered to the table.
DJ was immediately overjoyed that they had his favorite dish, Caramelized Short Ribs (sườn rang mặn, #121), which they don’t have on the menu at Huong Viet. I went with my craving and ordered Pho ( phở gà, #64) and we got an order of Fresh (not fried) Spring Rolls ( gỏi cuốn, #4) to start.
I've found, as a general rule, that there is an indirect relationship between pretty furnishings and tasty cuisine.
Our spring rolls came out in no time and looked great. I could tell right off the bat though that these only had the Thai basil inside, no cilantro.
Y’all, cilantro is like cat nip to me! I was so disappointed.
So they were good, if not bland and included very few strips of pork. And, the peanut dipping sauce was good, but thin and almost watery.
The caramelized short ribs were exactly what DJ expected. Salty, peppery, and sweet, the exterior is wonderfully crispy from the hot pot. Pour the requisite juices over steamed rice and it’s so delicious!
Also pleased, the pho had all the brothiness, homeiness, and comfort I needed on such a cold day. I loaded up the broth with many squirts of Sriracha and hoisin sauce and willed my insides to warm up and my sinuses to clear.
I usually opt for a well done flank steak and not chicken, but I (along with so many others) am trying to be healthier this year. My way? Eat less red meat.
So far, this red-meat loving gal has had a rude awakening. This chicken was a mistake. It was not tender from the broth like I thought it would be. In fact, I am still wondering what part of the chicken it came from…but it was certainly not breast or leg. Most definitely organ related. And as a gal who has eaten rooster testicles…I’m going with the “man organ.”
And as a gal who has eaten rooster testicles...I'm going with the ``man organ.``
All in all, Rice Paper was really good and about $1 more expensive on each menu item than Huong Viet.
Give each a shot and let me know what you think.
(And if you are averse to eating testicles, I’d steer clear of the chicken pho.)